This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
" Do we then make void the law through faith ? God forbid : yea, we establish the law." Rom. iii. 31.
THERE is very little of metaphysics in the Bible, and the little there is is nearly all in the Epistles of St. Paul; it is confined, almost exclusively, to one topic — justification by faith — and is intended chiefly to show that this doctrine does not conflict with the dignity and claims of the law.
There is to this day much foggy and confused thinking upon this subject. The popular conception of the matter seems to be about this: that the law is all mere justice and severity, and the gospel all mere graciousness. I think that young people almost always regard the law and the gospel as being in antagonism with each other; as if the law were eager to have possession of men to destroy them, and the gospel struggling to recover them from the grasp of the law to bless and save them.
* Delivered before the Virginia Conference, Nov. 22, 1874. 9
194 The Law and the Gospel.
This conception is wholly false. It js not true that the law is all severity, and the gospel all graciousness. On the contrary, the law, in one aspect of it, and, indeed, in its very nature and design, is as much an expression of the divine beneficence as the gospel is; and, on the other hand, the gospel, in one aspect of it, is as much an expression of the divine severity as the law. There is no contest over men between the law and the gospel ; they are in perfect harmony at all points. Faith does not make the law void, hut establishes it.
To make this affirmation of the text good is the object of this Sermon. For this purpose it will be necessary to give,
I. An analysis of the law, both as to its nature
and functions. This done, we shall be prepared to enter directly upon the inquiry, Is the law made void by the gospel?
1. The law is an assertion of the divine authority over intelligent creatures. I need not say that the law in question is the moral law. It embodies the will of the Creator with respect to the conduct of his creatures.
2. The law is not only an assertion of the authority of God; it also postulates the ultimate truth with regard to moral relations. The divine will is not capricious; it is coincident with the absolute truth.
What is the law, reduced to its last statement? Moses gave a very close analysis of it in the Decalogue; but Christ reduced it to the last analysis in that great saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and
The Law and the Gospel. 195
with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself," was not first said by Christ; it stands in the Old Testament Scriptures; but it was reserved to Christ to say, " This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." That these statements of Christ concerning these two commandments are true, that all the law does indeed hang on them, will appear to any one who will take the pains to review the Ten Commandments. These commandments, given to Moses in the mount, are God's own synopsis of the law; they were written by his finger upon two tables of stone. The first four were engraved on one table, and are called the commandments of the first table; the remaining six were engraved upon another, and are denominated the commandments of the second table. Examine these: "Thou shalt
have no other gods before me;" "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image;" "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;" "Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy." These commandments of the first table are against idolatry, against image-worship, against the profanation of the most holy I^ame, and require the consecration of a fixed portion of time to the Creator. They all have respect to the duties we owe to God.
196 The Law and the Gospel.
Kow, tell me, if any man loves God with his whole heart, will he not keep all these? and if a man loves his neighbor as himself, will he not keep all the commandments of the second table, which forbid murder, theft, and all other acts injurious to a fellow-creature? It is most true, indeed, that all the law is fulfilled in one word — love. He who loves God with all his strength, and his neighbor as himself, will fulfill the law of his own nature in keeping the law of God.
In this law of love is found the ultimate truth with regard to moral relations: where it is realized each individual cherishes the welfare of all others, and the full measure of his powers goes to swell the sum of universal good. The law, then, is not a mere capricious assertion of authority; it postulates the ultimate moral truth.
But this proposition is not to be understood as in any degree mitigating the fact of the divine authority. If the will of God is coincident with ultimate truth, that will is no less sovereign and almighty in maintaining the law, which is itself, also, the truth. The majesty and magistracy of God must not be set aside by a vain philosophy. The law is the truth, given by divine legislation, and enforced by supreme, executive, sovereign authority and power.
3. The law is the utterance of the moral nature of God. Mr. Wesley called it a transcript of the divine mind; my proposition puts the same truth in other terms. The ultimate moral truth is subjective in God. In the law God simply utters himself as to his moral
nature. "God is love," and "love is the fulfilling
The Law and the Gospel. 197
of the law," as we have already seen. Love is not, properly ; an attribute of God, but the very essence of his moral nature. The more deeply yon consider this the more clearly will yon see its truth. Every one of the moral attributes of the Creator is but a phase of love; for, what is truth but love speaking the words that are right? what is mercy but love condescending to the unworthy and the miserable? what, indeed, is justice itself but love governing the universe for the highest ends? And the law is love brought into expression in the conduct of intelligent beings. The law, then, is the utterance of the moral nature of God.
4. The law solves the problem involved in the relation of the individual liberty to the common welfare. Political philosophy has been embarrassed by this problem from the first. Men in society are in such
relations to each other that each one, in pursuing his own ends and seeking to gratify his own desires, is liable to trench upon the rights, to encroach upon the possessions, and disturb the peace, of others. To insure the public welfare, therefore, private liberty must be restrained. The general good demands a thousand checks upon the freedom of personal ambition and impulse. In business, in social intercourse, in the gratification of appetite, in the pursuit of honors and pleasures, a man must be held under repression, lest he should jostle and damage his neighbor; but let the law of God — the law of love — be realized in character and become universal, and the conflict ceases. This law, realized in consciousness, and giving impulse to desire and pursuit,
198 The Law and the Gospel.
will but enhance the common good, through the means of personal freedom; for each one will find his own happiness in promoting the well-being of others. Love finds its blessedness in blessing; it is more
pained in the injury of others than in its own calamities; it seeks its own in contributing to the common wealth. Give the man who loves his neighbor perfect liberty! Never fear him. The common weal will only be enhanced by his freedom. Who ever thinks of putting restraints upon a mother, in the midst of her family? If only she has knowledge and wisdom enough to understand what is best, there is no fear. Trust her with her children; let her be perfectly free; just let her have her own way! There is no other possible means of insuring the welfare of her children comparable to that. She shall do what she pleases!
Did the law of God but rule in all hearts, each one would contribute to the utmost of his power and resources to the welfare of the whole. He would do this of his own suggestion; he would do it freely; it would be the outcome of his personal liberty. In that case, the largest personal liberty would insure the largest possible sum of personal and universal good.
It follows that the law gives this divine solution
of the problem involved in the relation of the individual liberty to the common welfare. It secures at once the largest conceivable measure of freedom to the individual and the largest possible amount of good to the whole. Indeed, the common good is assured by the very liberty of the individual; it is
The Law and the Gospel. 199
enhanced by this very means in the highest possible degree. Let God once reign in all hearts, and von may turn every man loose. In such a case, any restraint on one must diminish the sum of the common blessedness; for all the free activities in the whole would contribute to the general fund.
5. The law is the condition of life. This proposition is incontestable and universal. The law does not furnish the condition of salvation to the sinner, but this fact does not affect the truth of our proposition. It is the universal and unalterable condition of life. This is true, whether you take the word condition
in its popular or in its scientific import. "What saith the law? He that cloeth these things shall live by them." On the condition of keeping the law life is secure. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." He who keeps the law lives, he who violates it dies. God has never assured life to any while they live in sin. " The wages of sin is death." So, also, in the scientific use of the term; life is conditioned upon the law, and is realized in the law. In the very fact of conformity to the law there is life, and any departure from it is death.
To see this clearly, we must contemplate it in the light of a truth already established in this Sermon. The essence of the law is love — pure, divine love. It is not that passion which is sometimes misnamed love, and which is only lust, but such holy affection as that which brought Christ down from heaven for us. It is a matter of consciousness that both purity and peace are found in this. In the beneficent affections there is inward harmony, while selfish pas-
200 The Law and the Gospel.
sions are in their own nature a cause of torment. The subjective state of the man in whose character the law of love is the supreme fact is that which the Bible calls life, and the inward discord, impurity, and torment of selfish passion is the very state which is named death. It is the living, conscious death, in wdiich being itself is perverted and becomes a curse — it is the death "that never dies.''" How manifestly true it is, then, that life is conditioned upon the law — that the law, indeed, inwrought into character, is the very spiritual life itself. It is the life of God in the soul, for the law is the utterance of the moral life of God.
Not only is the law incorporated into personal character, the fountain of spiritual life, but it is the basis of all good relations between intelligent creatures, and the condition of both harmony and happiness in the social state. It secures life objectivel} 7 " as w T ell as subjectively: "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him
eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it." If you can imagine a state of society in which all are elevated to the perfect standard of the law, life will abound within and without. All must be purity and peace, confidence and joy. None need stand in the attitude of defense — none can have occasion of fear, or even of suspicion. Unruffled happiness must reign in the soul, and undisturbed tranquillity in society. In the inward domain there can be naught to embitter, in the outer world naught to alarm. Fullness of life
The Lcao and the Gospel. 201
arises within, and fullness of peace responds from without.
Nor can I doubt that this constitutes the very blessedness of the heavenly state. My conception of heaven is not what it was some years ago. Then my ideas of it were formed chiefly from the semisensuous, poetical descriptions given in the last
chapters of the Apocalypse. True, I still cling to these, and enjoy that side of the coming glory as intensely as I did then. I love to think of the "great white throne," and of the river of life; of the sea of glass, and of the fine linen, white and clean, which is the righteousness of saints; of the house where the many mansions are, and of the angels and men redeemed from the earth, the just made perfect. I love to hear, in imagination, the music, and the worship, and the shouting, which shall be like the voice of many waters and mighty thunders. Nor do I doubt that there is a place called heaven, "the metropolis of Jehovah's empire," where infinite creative skill has brought into objective expression the highest, divinest types of beauty and grandeur for the delectation of the children of God. In this home of the just there is nothing to offend. The splendor of it is but feebly suggested in the fact that the very foundations of the outer w T alls — the meanest stones in all the city — are emerald, and jacinth, and sardonyx, and beryl; the meanest stones are gems, and the pavement of the streets is gold.
But while I still revel in these gorgeous pictures, there is now a view of heaven which seems to m? 9*
202 The Law and the Gospel.
to be infinitely more precious. There is one passage in the First Epistle of St. John that gives a deeper insight into heaven, and a more resplendent vision of its glory. It gives not the outward expression, but the inner, essential glory. These are the words; he that hath ears to hear, let him hear: "It doth not yet appear what we shall he; hut we know that, when he shall appear, we shall he like him; for we shall see him as he is." Not where a man is, but ichat he is, is the great matter. No external condition can insure felicity. There must be the inward adaptation; there must be capacity for blessedness. What would heaven be to your horse? He would not exchange a ten-acre meadow^ for it all. No doubt heaven is a place, but much more is it a state. There is a magnificent objective side to it, but in its
essence it is subjective. Let the young people of my congregation hear me, especially when I say that the great thing in every man's case is character. Not where a man is, but ichat he is — not what a man has, but what he is, ought to concern him chiefly. "The kingdom of heaven is within you." Hear what I say: It is character that makes destiny. I shall never forget how nature, in its most beautiful forms, gloomed before me when the guilt of my sins was upon me, nor how the world flamed into a new beauty, how the very forests seemed touched with celestial light, when I first felt the peace of God within. The truth is, the subjective projects its own light upon the objective, and, as to our delight in them, things are very much what we ourselves make them. It is character that makes destiny.
The Law and the Gospel 203
To be like the Lord Jesus is my highest conception of heaven, and to be like him is to have a character modeled upon the law.
There is another Bible description of heaven which lies in the line of my thought. It is in the Apocalypse: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." This is not mere poetry, it is literal truth. I shall, if I am saved at last, find myself in possession of all things. All heaven and all worlds will be my property. The very angels will belong to me, and all redeemed men. I shall — I say it with awe — inherit even God! Yet will my title not be exclusive; every saved soul will enjoy the same vast property. But my title will not be a mere fractional interest, reduced by these innumerable participants to an infinitesimal share. The great domain of the universe will be mine wholly. It will be yours wholly, also, as well as mine. What strange paradox is this! Ah, my brother! it is true as .strange, and the fact lies in the deepest philosophy of spiritual life. We shall find the explanation in the tenure by which our final possessions are to be held.
The tenure is love. "What! are you not satisfied
with the title? I tell you it is the most indefeasible and the safest in the universe, and constitutes the most real possession. Your property that you hold in fee and in the best securities may stand in a defective title, to be defended by litigation, with a thousand costs and vexatious, and in the end be lost. At any rate, death will wrest it from vou.
204 The Law and the Gospel.
At the very best, it is a loose possession, lying outside of you, and it may be but a very small part of it actually utilized to any substantial benefit.
But love is the soul's actual grasp and conscious possession of things. It is the inward title and vital hold of its object. He who loves his neighbor as himself has him for his property, with all his riches, his virtues, his attainments. What an appropriating possession have I taken of the man whom I love as I love myself! By this tenure shall I enter upon the ownership of all things at last.
But the glorious wonder is my title will not interfere with yours, nor yours with mine, nor will the possession of either diminish the value of the estate to the other; on the contrary, it will enhance it. There is a divine law by which participation does not diminish the property of the individual, but multiplies it by the number of participants. Imagine a man whose property amounts to millions; but he is a solitary man; in all the world there is not one that he loves; he occupies his mansion alone. Of what value is wealth to him? What enjoyment has he in it? All may be summed up in a very few narrow words. G ratified cupidity, and satiated appetite, and artistic taste, give the full measure. But let the participation of wife and children come in, and the value of every dollar is multiplied by the wonderful arithmetic of love, and it is only the more fully his as it is theirs also. So will it be in heaven; I shall own all things. So will you, and I shall own you, and you will own me; and I shall own your ownership of all things
The Law and the Gospel. 205
and of me. Thus your participation, so far from being an intrusion, or abstracting from my possessions, will only enhance my property by the full measure of your own enrichment. I shall enjoy your enjoyment of it as I shall my own, so that your presence and participation will double the estate for me. And the participants will be countless multitudes. heaven! when shall I enter upon thy perfect bliss?
How shallow is the philosophy of the selfish man ! He imagines that to give up his selfish aims and contests would be his ruin. To him it seems that to sink self would be to sacrifice every thing.
But let us see. Compare the range of the selfish man's enjoyments with that of one who loves his neighbor as he loves himself. The enjoyments of the selfish man are bounded by the limit of his own acquisitions and attainments; the distinctions he has readied, the wealth he has amassed, and the
gratification of his appetites and tastes, give the sum of his happiness, and this is to be subtracted from by the amount of his losses and his baffled plans and defeated hopes. But the man who loves his neighbor as himself enters into the happiness of all others; he enjoys all the prosperity that he knows of; the successes and triumphs of others he enjoys as if they were his own; the range of his enjoyments is limited not by his acquisitions, but by his capacities; he lays the world under contribution to himself — he draws his revenues from the universe. Such is the magic power of love; it possesses itself of all the wealth of others. A
206 The Law and the Gospel.
mother enjoys the happiness of her children more than she does her own — ay, perhaps more than they do themselves. A fatal mistake is that of the selfish man. If he could only rise to the level of this great truth, what a new world he would find himself in ! It seems to him that to sink self would
be ruin. Not so; for just where the self goes down consciousness emerges upon a higher plane and enjoys the freedom of the universe. With infinitely multiplied sources of wealth, there comes also the augmented capacity of enjoyment.
So true is it that the law is the condition of life; it is the very fountain of celestial blessedness. It opens the resources of the universe, and invests us in possession of all things. It is the soul's true enfranchisement. If the truth shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. It constitutes the very life of heaven itself.
It is true, then, as I said in the introduction, that the law is, in one aspect of it — and, indeed, in its nature and purposes — as really an expression of the divine beneficence as the gospel is. " The law was ordained to life." The very purpose of its ordination was to secure the spiritual and eternal life and well-being of intelligent creatures.
Now, you may say, It is plain that the law was ordained to life, and, if so, it is beyond all question
an expression of the divine beneficence. If so, perhaps you may be disposed to infer that the law can never injure you — that you have nothing to fear from it. Let us see.
Take an illustration from the domain of physical
The Law and the Gospel. 207
law. Even this, also, was ordained to life. Take the law of gravitation — that great universal law by which all the forces of nature are regulated and held in check. It is evidently a most beneficent law, and was ordained to life. Life would not be possible amid the forces of nature if they had not metes and bounds set to them by this law. All loose objects on the surface of the earth would otherwise be forever quiescent, or else thrown about at random, so that no man could calculate upon their movement's. N"o mechanic could know what apparatus might be necessary to elevate beams or stones to their places in the wall. One could not
even tell the exertion necessary to set one foot before the other. But with this universal law dominating nature with absolute uniformity, the little child soon becomes at home in the world, and learns how to adjust himself to its movements. ISTow, suppose some man should say, It is clear to me that the law of gravitation was ordained to life — that its very purpose was beneficent. I have, therefore, nothing to fear from this law; it can never hurt me. In this mood, standing on some "pinnacle of the temple," the devil of presumption comes to him and says, "Jump oft*, the law of gravitation will never hurt you; it is a beneficent law; never fear." He makes the leap. Imagine the consequences. Or he stands upon a mountain slope in the track of a descending avalanche, and, folding his arms, says, "I will just stand still; the law that moves the descending man is a beneficent one." In five minutes he will be a mass of bloody jelly. The truth
208 The Law and the Gospel.
is that all of God's laws are ordained to life — they have all a beneficent purpose; but the beneficent effect itself depends upon the uniformity and certainty of their execution. If this uniformity were broken up by exceptions in favor of the thoughtless or the wayward, the result would be such confusion as would defeat the beneficent purpose. A man must know that a given effect will follow a given condition always and everywhere, or he can never feel secure. It is, then, in the uniformity of its execution that the beneficent effect of the law is assured. But it follows from this that he who disregards the law r must be destroyed by it. These laws of nature go forward to their objective point under the momentum of Omnipotence. He who adjusts himself to them has the full advantage of their beneficent design; but if any man shall dare to stand in their way, he must die the death.
Law r is given to man for life; but with respect to the law T he is free. The purpose of God is that we should adjust ourselves to the law; otherwise, we shall find that the law ordained to life will operate our death. It will clo this by virtue of the very fact in
which its beneficent design appears — that is, the uniformity of its operation. This is true, in both the physical and the spiritual domain. The law is life to him who adjusts himself to it, and death to him who violates it.
Especially is the moral law enforced by a penal administration: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." It is maintained by sovereign, divine authority.
The Law and the Gospel 209
II. Now, we are prepared to approach the question of the text: "Do we then make void the law through faith?" and to examine as to the truth of the reply: "God forbid: yea, we establish the law."
I have said that the law is the condition of life, and that this is a universal truth. Everywhere and at all times it is the condition of life. To the un26
fallen the condition is practicable, but to the fallen it is not. The law is above them; it is impossible to them; they are under a spiritual paralysis which incapacitates them for its observance.
The law is the condition of life for the unfallen, but it is not the condition of pardon for the guilty. It contains no remedy for the depraved.
But the gospel is also a law. If the law is the condition of life for the unfallen, the gospel is the law of recovery for the fallen.
The gospel is not a mere random, uncalculating, uncliscriminating distribution of saving mercies; it is a method — it is God's method of saving the lost. In the processes of recovery he adheres as invariably to his own established method as in the case of the moral law. What the method, as it applies to infants and the heathen, may be in all respects, we may not know. We know that all who are saved are saved by the Atonement, and, as to those to whom the gospel comes, salvation is conditioned upon repentance and faith. In all cases we know,
also, that God adheres to his own method.
As the gospel is the law of recovery for the lost, the question is whether this method is iu conflict
210 The Law and the Gospel
with the original law, which is the condition of life. In the salvation of the sinner, is the moral law made void?
If so, it must he in one of two particulars: either,
First. That it disregards the penal authority of the law, and sets aside the penal administration; or,
Second. That it relieves its subjects of the obligation of obedience and holy living.
If the first be true, it must appear in the method of pardon ; if the second be true, it must appear in the moral processes of salvation as they appear in
Let us look into the facts. Our first inquiry is with respect to the law of pardon as it relates to the penal administration. Does it discredit the moral law? does it contemn, or dishonor, the punitive authority? Let us see how the case stands.
The terms of the law are : " The soul that sinneth, it shall die." The inviolable claim of justice is concerned here. Death is the penalty of sin. If the penalty should fail in any one case, the justice of God is impeached. !N"o greater calamity could befall the universe; for the infinite integrity of the divine justice is the sole guaranty of the peace of the universe. If it shall fail in any one case, it is not infinite; one failure would be conclusive proof of its imperfection. If the divine justice is imperfect, universal disorder impends. The law must be uniform to insure its beneficent end, as we have already seen. Heaven and earth may fail, but not one jot or tittle of the law shall fail. Death always follows sin; there arc no exceptional cases; there never was one, and
The Law and the Gospel. 211
never will be — never can be. ^N"o sinner ever entered heaven over the trampled and dishonored law. Every sin that is committed is followed by death.
The method of pardon provided in the gospel meets the case. In the atoning sacrifice of Christ the demand of the law is met in the full measure of its penalty. The incarnate Son of God appears for man before the law ; he offers his life for man's life. Wh at a solemn, yea, what an awful, spectacle is this ! The Son of God invites the stroke of justice impending over man upon his own head. If the case had been submitted to me, I should have said that for him to stand and proclaim himself the representative of man would be enough. I should have thought, a priori, that the imperious law- would bow before him, and turn aside from its demand. But no. Even he, standing in the sinner's place, must touch the sinner's doom. Justice, supreme, infinite, implacable, smote even him; the law vindicated itself even on
his honored head.
The supremacy of the law is thus established before heaven and earth in the person of the Son of God, who takes the penalty of the sinner upon himself. Do we not, then, establish the law in the method of pardon? How r glorious is the law! how" inviolable, since this Divine Victim was sacrificed to its penal supremacy! Behold the severity of the gospel ! It gave the Lord of glory to death to meet the claim of justice; it proposes no mitigation, but pays the "mighty debt."
In the pardon of sin we see that the honor of the law is fully maintained. Is it so in the processes of
212 The Law and the Gospel.
salvation, as they appertain to individual character? Are the claims of the law released so far as the obligation of obedience is concerned?
As to those classes to whom the gospel does not come, to whose understandings its claims are not addressed — as idiots, infants, and the heathen — we are in ignorance of the method by which the benefits of the Atonement become effectual in their case; but in the case of those who receive the message we know what the method is, for, let it be repeated, the gospel, too, is a law — the law of recovery for the sinner. No man is saved by the gospel except by its method. Salvation is conditioned upon the method: " Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish;" "he that believeth hath life."
Behold, again, the severity of the gospel ! Its demand upon us for repentance is absolutely inexorable. To " perish " is the alternative. But repentance is the abandonment of sin, and sin is the transgression of the law. The sinner must return to the law. JSTo matter if the sin be dear as the right eye, or valuable as the right hand, the very eye must be plucked out, the hand cut off. This inexorable demand is in the law of recovery; its voice is imperious as the thunder-tone of Sinai. Repentance is consummated in faith. The two are vitally related
to each other, and are, indeed, parts of the same process. Repentance is the Godward movement of the soul, and just where the soul touches consciously upon God it passes into faith. Faith takes Christ for all that he is, takes God for all that he is. In faith the soul opens itself to all divine communica-
The Law and the Gospel. 213
tions and energies. Faith is the condition of receptivity toward God.
Upon this the new birth supervenes. What is the new birth? Can you tell me just what is accomplished in a man when he is converted? The apostle has given us the statement in inspired words; hear them: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The love of God shed abroad in the heart — that is the new birth. But love is the sum of the law, and God is love. In the conversion of the soul the law becomes subjective in character. Experimental and
practical religion are vitally related to each other. In experimental religion, the law is inwrought into the inner life; in practical religion, it appears in the outer life. The same divine finger that wrote the law on the tables of stone, now, in the work of salvation, writes it on the heart of the believer. Reformation of life and manners accompanies conversion. Where the work is genuine a holy life is the result.
Is the law made void in this? Xay, verily, it is established. The lav: is an assertion of the divine authority, and the gospel brings its subjects to a willing and joyful obedience. The law postulates the ultimate truth with regard to moral relations, and through the gospel the ultimate truth becomes incorporated into character. The law is the utterance of the moral nature of God, and through the gospel we become "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the word through lust," The law solves the problem involved in the relation of the individual liberty with the common weal. In Christ the
214 The Law and the Gospel.
truth makes men free, and they are free indeed. This liberty is never the cloak of licentiousness; its impulses are the inspiration of the law of God. The law is the condition of life; the gospel simply brings men back to this condition; it establishes the law.
Many, no doubt, misconceive the very nature of salvation. When they think of being saved, they think only of escaping hell-torments after death, and entering into some beautiful world where there is no suffering nor death; but to escape torment, and live in a world free from suffering, is not of the essence of salvation. These things are necessary and invariable incidents of salvation; but they are not of the essence of it. Salvation is a fact of character; it is subjective; it is found in the attainment of holiness. Inward purity is the essence of it, and outward conformity to the will of God the expression of it.
In the great work of grace by which we are saved
the gospel does what the law cannot do, but not in any manner that contravenes the law. It honors the law's penalty, most solemnly and awfully, in the death of our august Substitute; it also respects the sacred claim of the law in the method upon which salvation is conditioned, in the inexorable law of repentance and faith. Beyond all this, it brings the resources of grace, in the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit, to recover men from their depraved condition, and reproduce in them the purity of the law.
The gospel takes man, fallen from the law, guilty.
The Law and the Gospel. 215
polluted, lost, and elevates him again to the plane of the law; it restores him to the law.
"Do we then make void the law through faith? God
FORBID : YEA, WE ESTABLISH THE LAW."
I have said that the law is as really an expression of beneficence as the gospel; and so it certainly is, for it was ordained to the same end — that is, to life. But it ought to be added that the gospel is a more tender and affecting exhibition of goodness than the law. Depraved as man is, he suffers a spiritual paralysis, which renders him incapable of immediate divine communion, and insensible to that direct communication of God which the law is; he is not susceptible of divine influences; he is in an unreceptive condition toward God. It was necessary, therefore, that a method of salvation should be resorted to in which Gocl should approach man through his natural sympathies and sensibilities. To this end the eternal Son became incarnate; the infinite pity looked upon man through human eyes, and spoke to him in the sorrow-burdened tones of a human voice; he took our nature, and in it suffered the most dreadful death on our account. We have him evermore before our eyes, perspiring blood in the garden, and dying on the cross; we see him perpetually treacling the wine-press of the wrath of God alone. He suffers all this agony for us sin37
ners, and for our salvation; and this agony interprets the heart of God to us in a human language that we can understand. God comes upon us on the side of our natural sensibilities, and opens a way for himself through our human sympathies — ¦
216 The Law and the Gospel.
so tender, so touching, is this expression of the divine love.
What is more sublime than the prophetic declaration, "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied?" Is not this the grandest fact in heaven itself — Christ's own gratified contemplation of the fruit of his agony? He will remember all — the bloody sweat, the buffeting, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the hour and power of darkness, the anguish of the cross, the awful hiding of his Father's face — all, all, he will remember; but around him will be the "innumerable multitude" saved from sin, saved from the "second death," and raised to a
destiny whose joy and grandeur only he will comprehend; and he will be satisfied. This gratified contemplation of the fruit of his sufferings will be Christ's own eternal, ineffable heaven. This is the "joy of the Lord."
My brethren of the Virginia Conference, you are permitted to enter into the participation of Christ's labors, and you have the promise that you shall, if you are faithful, enter into his joy. His joy is found in the fruit of his toil; so shall yours be the fruit of your own labor and of his. O let us emulate the self-sacrifice of Christ ! He avoided no toil, evaded no shame, sought no ease in the labors of his great enterprise; he did not even shun the garden or the cross. Think of this, you who have the hardest circuits, and are in the deepest poverty! think of this, you whose toil is the hardest, and whose cross is the heaviest! Behold, the Lord is now gone up, and is beginning even now to reap
The Law and the Gospel. 217
the fruit of his paiu ! The multiplying millions of his redeemed are gathering around him ; he looks to you to swell the number. What if your labor be in pain and poverty? so was his. What if you are despised by men? so was he. The time is at hand when you, too, shall be called up to hear that supreme word which will create your heaven: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Thou hast been with him in toil; thou shalt also, in thy measure, with him gather in the harvest and enter into the joy.
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.